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Did you know that gel nail systems and traditional acrylic nails systems are part of the same family tree as gel nail systems? Yes, that's right! Acrylate is the basis of both systems. Both systems use monomers, and both require energy to stimulate a chemical reaction. Although the chemistry of these enhancement products is quite different, there are some similarities.
LET'S GET TO THE MYTHS FIRST
Acrylics are Chemicals, and Gels Are Not
This myth is probably due to the fact that acrylic liquid has an odor, while gels don't. Monomer's smell is directly proportional to the evaporation speed of the particular ingredient. (vapor caused due to evaporation releases the scent). Gels don't have an evaporation speed, so they do not emit odor. Both Acrylic and Gels can be classified as Chemicals.
Acrylic chemicals are not used in gel products
It is impossible to be more truthful. Acrylate is the main chemical ingredient in both products. It is also part of acrylic. Both are FACT acrylic. Acrylic powders are called Meth-Acrylate, while gels are called Urethane Acrylate.
Gels were introduced to the nail industry in mid-80's. The goal was to provide a durable, strong enhancement similar to acrylic with a glossy, hard finish. These gels were created using a urethane acrylicate oligomer base. This resulted in a smaller molecular weight, which means they feel lighter. They are highly resistant to solvents, so they won't absorb them.
WHAT ARE OLIGOMERS?
Oligomers are monomer chains that have been preformed and are short in length. They make up the chemistry behind gels. These chains are formed by the monomers in gel. You don't have to worry about mixing them because they are already mixed. It is also quicker to cure them with an LED or UV lamp than traditional acrylics that take up to 48 hours.
Photo Initiators (PI), which are energy sources that produce free radicals during curing, need UV and LED light. The cure rate is generally faster if there are more PI's in a recipe. Heat spikes are often generated during the curing process. Heat spikes are caused by PI's, which create energy and harden.
Technicians should apply gel in thin layers. This will allow for the enhancement to be built up. Also, thick layers make it difficult for light to reach the bottom layers. This can lead to service breakdown and product that is not fully cured.
NSI scientists are faced with two difficult challenges when formulating these products: Using the right photo initiators and the right amount of UV/LED gel. The following are three of the most critical factors for UV and LED curing:
* The proper balance between the nail lamp and photo initiators.
* The spectrum and intensity of UV or LED light available.
* The length of the exposure.
Oligomer - This is the backbone of gel science. It is a pre-formed, short chain of monomers. Urethane acrylate Oligomers are superior in toughness and scratch resistance when used with light-cured materials. They form the base of all gels and are crucial in determining gel's working properties.
Gel Powder - This is simply acrylic powder that's used in conjunction with a resin-based dipping system. Dip systems are often advertised by manufacturers to suggest to customers that they are a healthier alternative to gel polish.
UV/LED Gels- A UV/LED gel is an oligomer-based nail product which requires UV/LED energy for cure. The UV gels allow the technician to work for an unlimited time before curing under a UV/LED light. They can be used for almost any service such as natural nail overlays, tip and overlays, and sculpting on forms. They can be removed by filing.
Hard Gels - Another name for a traditional gel enhancement that is resistant to solvents is "Hard Gels". The gel may be non-porous, and must be filed off to be removed. They are sculpting gels. They can be found in many viscosities (or thicknesses). They cannot be soaked off and must be removed by filing.
Soft Gels, also known as Removable Gels, are an alternative to hard gels. These gels can be removed by soaking them in Acetone. Do not let the words "removable" and "soft" make you think they are weak. Some gels can be used for sculpting enhancements.
Gel Polish - Gel polish is a thin, light-cured gel that provides a long-lasting alternative to traditional air-dry nail polish. Gel polish can be used to shape nails but cannot add any strength or protection to the natural nails. Gel polishes are often a gel.